How dare he.
Amity gazed around the other guests as she tried to put the unsettling contact with Finlay Weston out of her mind. The party included sixteen adults and nine children, who at the moment were outside sledding under the watchful eyes of the nursemaid and two footmen.
Seven of the adults were unmarried.
Six geese a-laying. Five golden rings.
Amity’s mouth curved up at her unvoiced wit.
Two of the unmatched were meant to marry, by understanding if not from genuine attachment.
That meant she was bait for the remaining three.
She examined her prospects. Mr. Lunt, despite his unfortunate name, was her best bet. He owned property in Lancashire and was not an unattractive man if one overlooked his inability to carry a tune and trend toward baldness. As married names went, Amity Lunt did have a lumbering quality to it, however.
Her next best prospect was Mr. Gibbs, a short man with a prominent forehead and a lively humor that would have been more appealing if not for his laugh, a harsh donkey bray that made Amity wince each time she heard it. He held a decent living as a vicar. Marrying Mr. Gibbs wouldn’t offer a significantly more comfortable life than what she had at Kearny, but Amity knew how to scrimp and save. She could set aside a few shillings for her sisters.
Amity Gibbs was an infelicitous name at best, however.
Her final option was Mr. Tillet. Quiet. Sober. Inscrutable. Amity didn’t enjoy his presence enough to consider him for any reason beyond the pecuniary. He never laughed. He rarely smiled—and if he couldn’t find a reason to smile at Christmas, when would he? Amity didn’t have the heart to tie herself to such a dour man for the rest of eternity. She had promised her mother to try and find a husband, and Amity resolved to do so.
The only other unmarried man in the room was Mr. Finlay Weston, and he was not an option. As for property, given the size of his annual income Finlay Weston was well positioned to marry into the aristocracy. He was a good match for Holly, if her cousin had been amenable. But instead, Finn was paying her an uncomfortable amount of attention which should be directed toward Holly.
How dare he, Amity seethed, thinking again of the evening before.
How dare Finn touch her, even for the most innocuous reason? The memory of Finn’s tall form at her back and his large hands brushing intimately against her body sent confusion churning through her.
Amity didn’t appreciate the way her skin heated with the slightest glimpse of Finn’s broad back from across the room. She managed the problem by avoiding him as much as possible, but she couldn’t help sneaking occasional glances.
No matter where she looked, however, when he laughed, Finlay’s chuckle rumbled through her like distant thunder.
Amity corrected the direction of her thoughts toward an innocuous plate of sugared plums. Finlay hoped to marry Holly.
Holly wanted to marry Lord Pickford, her exciting suitor in London.
What did she want? Amity had a sinking feeling that she knew, and he was already out of reach.
“Amity?” Holly looked at her expectantly. Lost in thought, Amity hadn’t noticed the small parcel in her cousin’s hand.
“Oh!” she said, recovering herself. Holly’s bright blue eyes met hers. “Thank you.”
She had dreaded this moment. Amity had stitched a small square of linen left from the bedsheets with Holly’s initials and a sprig of greenery beneath. She had traded her share of the egg money for a few twists of brightly dyed silk thread, but after all her effort, Amity had been too ashamed to give her handmade gift once she had seen Holly’s collection of fancy embroidered reticules perched on a shelf in her wardrobe.
Now, however, Amity had no choice. “I didn’t realize there was to be a gift exchange. I left mine in your bedroom.”
“No matter. Go on. Open it.” Holly clapped her gloved hands. Her curls danced. In her white dress with green-and-gold accents, she looked like a giddy angel.
She and Finlay would make a handsome pair. He, so reserved; she, so energetic and social.
But yesterday, Amity had promised to help hold off Finn from proposing to her cousin for as long as possible. One didn’t renege on vows to a friend, even when she was starting to believe that perhaps that vow had been made in haste. What a mess.
Amity worked the ribbon open, trying not to snag the embroidery. It would make a sweet gift for Charity if she could keep it nice.
Holly waited patiently, though Amity found herself distracted by the sight of Finn. He leaned against the stone fireplace a few feet away, pretending not to observe their interaction.
Amity swallowed. He had definitely grown into his ears. And his legs.
She didn’t care for the slippery, hollow ache that looking at him produced in her. Not when she could never have him. Finlay was destined for her cousin, no matter how little Holly wanted him, and Amity’s loyalty to Holly overrode whatever this temporary feeling for her old friend was called.
Infatuation, that was the word. Amity dropped her gaze as his rose from the flickering fire. The ribbon came free. Paper rustled. Amity lifted the heavy rectangular box lid with apprehension and mortification.
“A writing set,” she breathed. A stack of thick paper as soft as her ruined dress lay in the tray. Proper goose quills and a sealed pot of ink lay in the tray, along with an unused block of sealing wax. Amity stroked the wood. It must have cost a month’s worth of egg money. Two months, even. “Holly, I’m speechless.”
She didn’t deserve such a fine gift. Amity felt humbled and indebted. For such a kind gesture she vowed to do everything she could to prevent Finn from proposing to Holly.
“No more ridiculous scraps of paper, scatterbrain. I want proper letters from you all next year.” Holly clapped her hands.
Amity bounced out of her chair to embrace her cousin. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Amity’s back warmed as if she were being watched. Near the mantle, Finn’s dark gaze burned like banked coals. Holly narrowed her eyes at him, and Amity broke contact.
Holly didn’t want him.
Amity swallowed. Amity Weston had a nice ring to it.
How dare I?
Carrie Lomax writes steamy contemporary and sweeter historical romance. Her well-reviewed contemporary Say You Will trilogy is currently available on Kindle Unlimited. Carrie was a finalist in the 2018 Virginia Fool for Love contest for her historical romance, To Win a Wicked Widow.
After a stint teaching English in France, she moved to New York City for 15 years, where she acquired a pair of graduate degrees, a husband and a career as a librarian. She lives in Maryland with two budding readers and her real-life romantic hero.
A Christmas Conspiracy
Mr. Finlay Weston braves deep snowfall to attend a tedious Christmas party in the countryside for one reason—he intends to take a wife. Miss Stanton is the obvious choice. Her father’s property neighbors his estate. He has already sought her father’s permission. Yet it is her cousin, Miss Amity Mayweather, who compels him. Her sharp quips cause scenes night after night. Could the women be conspiring to prevent Finn from proposing?
A New Year’s Wish
Amity doesn’t resent her cousin for living in her childhood home. It’s not Holly’s fault that her father and brother died in a carriage accident, leaving Amity, her mother and sisters to eke out an existence in genteel poverty. Vivacious Holly wants nothing to do with Finlay “Mr. Poker-Arse” Weston and his looming betrothal. Of course, Amity will help Holly avoid his proposal for a fortnight. But Amity is unprepared for the wholly inappropriate longing Finn stirs in her…
Dreams Do Come True
When Holly abruptly changes course, Amity must decide whether to claim the unexpected love blossoming between her and her brother’s best friend—or to step aside and preserve her closeness with Holly. Finn won’t be cajoled into proposing to the wrong woman. He’ll have Amity—no matter what his choice costs him.
This is a friends-to-enemies-to-lovers Regency romance. Always a happy ever after!